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Pathfinder 1E How "grimdark" is your Golarion?

Ixal

Adventurer
I do not really care for actual grimdark, but Pathfinder 2 seems to go too much into the "family friendly happy place with no conflict" direction, now that all APs have canonically been resolves with the best possible outcome and most of Golarion seems to have become very cosmopolitan overnight to justify goblins, previously only being described as murderous cannibals, now suddenly being accepted and productive members of society. Same for many other new PC ancestries.
And of course how suddenly all real world hot topics (slavery, colonialism, ...) got instantly solved in the edition change except in the "obviously evil" places.
 

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Justice and Rule

Adventurer
I do not really care for actual grimdark, but Pathfinder 2 seems to go too much into the "family friendly happy place with no conflict" direction, now that all APs have canonically been resolves with the best possible outcome and most of Golarion seems to have become very cosmopolitan overnight to justify goblins, previously only being described as murderous cannibals, now suddenly being accepted and productive members of society. Same for many other new PC ancestries.

I mean, Golarion has always been pretty cosmopolitan. The Goblin thing is still a bit of stretch, but part of that is Paizo trying to capitalize on a race they feel is iconic within their setting and it's only surprising if you haven't been paying attention to any of their media output. Not sure what other races had a similar problems, though.

And of course how suddenly all real world hot topics (slavery, colonialism, ...) got instantly solved

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I mean, you give "colonialism", which is Sargava/Vidrian, and nothing was really "solved" as much as things just advanced: yes, the government is no longer simply Chellish colonists ruling over Mwangi tribesmen, but that doesn't suddenly make things a utopia. Instead, it's a post-colonial society dealing with post-colonial problems (the quick societal change is remarked upon a source of tension in its entry in the World Guide, which is all we really have to go on) as well as its own defense problems after breaking things off with the Shackles pirates. So instead of the simple colonial problem, they are dealing with the way more relevant problems of post-colonial society, which are really way, way more interesting by comparison.

For Absalom and slavery, that always felt untenable? First off, slavery returning to the city was a recent thing, driven by Chellish power and protected by Lord Gyr despite a great deal of resistance from the city itself (which had been remarked upon in stuff like Guide to Absalom). Now Gyr has been gone for a hot minute and Chelliax's power is at least in flux given the number of revolutions (successful or otherwise) going on in its borders. Combined with the noted resistance to it and the recency in which it was implemented, I'm not sure how much more justification is needed in-story to eliminate it. From an writing perspective, slavery is a big topic that shouldn't be broached lightly, and I don't think Paizo was ever read to deal with it in a place like Absalom; it always came off as more of an edgy afterthought than something taken with proper consideration.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
I mean, Golarion has always been pretty cosmopolitan. The Goblin thing is still a bit of stretch, but part of that is Paizo trying to capitalize on a race they feel is iconic within their setting and it's only surprising if you haven't been paying attention to any of their media output. Not sure what other races had a similar problems, though.



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I mean, you give "colonialism", which is Sargava/Vidrian, and nothing was really "solved" as much as things just advanced: yes, the government is no longer simply Chellish colonists ruling over Mwangi tribesmen, but that doesn't suddenly make things a utopia. Instead, it's a post-colonial society dealing with post-colonial problems (the quick societal change is remarked upon a source of tension in its entry in the World Guide, which is all we really have to go on) as well as its own defense problems after breaking things off with the Shackles pirates. So instead of the simple colonial problem, they are dealing with the way more relevant problems of post-colonial society, which are really way, way more interesting by comparison.

For Absalom and slavery, that always felt untenable? First off, slavery returning to the city was a recent thing, driven by Chellish power and protected by Lord Gyr despite a great deal of resistance from the city itself (which had been remarked upon in stuff like Guide to Absalom). Now Gyr has been gone for a hot minute and Chelliax's power is at least in flux given the number of revolutions (successful or otherwise) going on in its borders. Combined with the noted resistance to it and the recency in which it was implemented, I'm not sure how much more justification is needed in-story to eliminate it. From an writing perspective, slavery is a big topic that shouldn't be broached lightly, and I don't think Paizo was ever read to deal with it in a place like Absalom; it always came off as more of an edgy afterthought than something taken with proper consideration.
Kobolds too are now normal citizens and also lizardfolk can be a common occurrence in cities.
And maybe the recent Mwangi book gave more detail on it, but before that yes, colonialism was solved as the colonial rule was overthrown, but instead of seeking revenge both populations were now living peacefully together, at least according to the initial information I have read + comments from the designers.

If it weren't for the lich escaping you would be hard pressed to find anything really evil on Golarion anymore.
So in my opinion Paizo went too far in removing potential sources of conflict. Conflict is what drives story.
And in the process of doing that also hurt the internal consistency/versimilitude of the setting with their "suddenly everyone likes each other" retcons (Goblins, Kobolds,...).
 
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Justice and Rule

Adventurer
Kobolds too are now normal citizens and also lizardfolk can be a common occurrence in cities.

Ah, I hadn't even thought about those.

And maybe the recent Mwangi book gave more detail on it, but before that yes, colonialism was solved as the colonial rule was overthrown, but instead of seeking revenge both populations were now living peacefully together, at least according to the initial information I have read + comments from the designers.

No, this isn't correct. Just read the Lost Omens World Guide. Just because there isn't outright sectarian violence doesn't really mean that they are "peacefully living with each other": Sargavan colonists are protected under the law from retaliation, which is different from groups just getting along. Similarly there are tensions between the former colonists and the natives due to the rapid change in culture as well as land redistribution going on. While the gazetteer doesn't go into depth on the topic, it does specifically mention these things, which are classic problems of post-colonial states.

This could all change in the new Mwangi book, certainly, but by what they decided to actually talk about in its new entry would seem to hint that things aren't "solved", not by a longshot.

If it weren't for the lich escaping you would be hard pressed to find anything really evil on Golarion anymore.
So in my opinion Paizo went too far in removing potential sources of conflict. Conflict is what drives story.

I mean, there's plenty of obvious evil on Golarion: Chelliax still exists, Nidal and Geb are still around, the Sodden Lands are still soaked by an evil Kraken, one of the two Runelords that are awake is evil, and Razmiran is going to be around until they finally do something with the evil mage-charlatans.

What the new status quo does is rely less on big, evil monoliths and more on transitional instability. Taldor has a sane Empress, but that doesn't make Taldor good, nor does it end conflict in the country; it's still got territorial ambitions, it just now has someone who can actually accomplish them. The people who opposed Eutropia haven't disappeared, nor have the politics of intrigue; it's all still there, but there's just an active force of good in the race rather than being another declining empire.

Similarly, Anastasia in Irrisen is good, but she's also dealing with a society that is entrenched in cruelty for millennia. They outright state that there are a bunch of winter witches who are actively working against her. With those internal conflicts, it's the best time for the Linnorm Kings to strike and attempt to take back some of their lands, something that wasn't an option before.

There's other stuff, too. Opark forming and Belkzan starting to unify against Tar-Baphon present a lot of potential problems for the future beyond the Whispering Tyrant. I guess the Technic League is basically dead, but that is likely to create a big free-for-all warlord conflict in Numeria as Kevoth Kul gets his naughty word back together while other warlords take their shot before he can.

And in the process of doing that also hurt the internal consistency/versimilitude of the setting with their "suddenly everyone likes each other" retcons (Goblins, Kobolds,...).

Why overstate things like this? Just because people allow certain people to exist in society doesn't mean that "everyone likes each other": tolerance doesn't necessarily equate to acceptance.
 



Justice and Rule

Adventurer
No, this isn't correct. Just read the Lost Omens World Guide. Just because there isn't outright sectarian violence doesn't really mean that they are "peacefully living with each other": Sargavan colonists are protected under the law from retaliation, which is different from groups just getting along. Similarly there are tensions between the former colonists and the natives due to the rapid change in culture as well as land redistribution going on. While the gazetteer doesn't go into depth on the topic, it does specifically mention these things, which are classic problems of post-colonial states.

This could all change in the new Mwangi book, certainly, but by what they decided to actually talk about in its new entry would seem to hint that things aren't "solved", not by a longshot.

So yeah, having gotten the book, this turns out to be true. It's covered near the start of the book when going over the Sargavan people. There are laws against open retaliation, but those are there for obvious reasons: they are in a tenuous state of security and having a bloody ethnic civil war would probably only allow Cheliax, the Free Captains, or some other power to invade. It's not just out of kindness but necessity. They also probably got a good look at Galt and said "Yeah, how about no?"

But it's stated that most Sargavans are treated hostilely, though without the obvious physical harm, while the Sargavans themselves are split between those struggling with the culture shock and those trying to heal the rift. But there is an obvious and open rift rather than the social fabric of society being magically healed. Plenty of interesting options in that compared what was there before.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
In general, I'm pretty annoyed when people who don't read 2e materials start claiming that 2e materials are somehow less dark. Especially when it comes with weird claims that weren't true in 1e either. (also while I still find it silly goblins are common instead of uncommon, especially since varisian goblins are still same as before, kobolds and iruxi ARE uncommon. Main difference is that setting is more explicit about the "yeah no, town guards aren't randomly murderous everywhere" that has never really been case in aps outside of ustalav)

Like its still same writers mostly. Apparently Agents of Edgewatch has content comparable to saw movies in term of brutality.

Abomination Vault, Age of Ashes and Extinction Curse have plenty of dark stuff as well. Heck same applies to modules, like The Fall of Plaguestone's villain wants to kill entire town and there is chance of them succeeding at it if players mess up. The actual lightest ap in tone of Fist of Ruby Phoenix and that is because 1) it focuses on fun of the competition aka it isn't about "duel to the death" combat 2) it has plenty of 80s movie/anime/jrpg moments. Like seriously, I'm 100% it emulates most perfect kind of cheese on purpose x'D

(also like Anastasia is LN character. Like sure LN is much kinder alignment than NE Elvanna, but I don't know where people get idea that she is particularly nicer and not just in comparison)

But yeah, people tend to ignore that whenever old bad guy is removed, they get replaced with someone else. Gorilla King of Usaro is dead, but now there is wizard pretending to be liberator of humans and great warrior capable of scaring chara-kau making their power play to take over the city. In Taldor besides political intrigue there is repeated signs of three headed crow making appearance. Ban on slavery means that certain hidden factions are on the move. Sarkoris is still demon filled wasteland because demons didn't just get magically banished back. And in a way, Whispering Tyrant getting freed replaces Worldwound as whole as the "Catastrophic scale local threat" of Avistan.

And then we learn of things like "in Vudra on certain region there is hole where seemingly infinite amount of aberrations keep climbing out of".
 
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(also like Anastasia is LN character. Like sure LN is much kinder alignment than NE Elvanna, but I don't know where people get idea that she is particularly nicer and not just in comparison)

We never continued the Reign of Winter AP after getting rid of Elvanna but just in case we did I was already thinking about the ways in which dear old Anastasia was going to be a pretty terrible ruler. Not randomly cruel like Elvanna. More she would be the top of an innately unfair social order and would fail to see the damage that was being done by it. She'd have plenty of Old European Monarchy bias and blinkers plus the problem of the existing power structures doing their best to bend her to their way of thinking. Sure, witches eating children would have been outlawed. But beating a "rebellious" serf to death would still be okay.
 

the_David

Explorer
I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that Golarion was pretty gonzo overall; is it really super grimdark by default (even by implication)?
It depends on the country you're in. You've got science fantasy in Numeria, Horror in Ustalav, the wild west in the Mana Wastes, etc. It's got everything, but you don't have to use everything in your campaign.

A lot of players do go full on kitchensink and make characters that might not fit in with the people around them very much.

There's usually at least one adventure in an adventurepath that can be considered grimdark.
 

Shair-afiyun

Villager
My settings are always a slowburn of how grim and bleak it really is.
Avoid shoving it in players face immediately, let the horror slowly seep out.
Current setting is in Arcadia.
 

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